As I mentioned during my speaking engagement for the Philly Tourism Symposium last month, I noted that Filipino cuisine has emerged as a food trend in Philadelphia. Several new restaurants have opened recently, joining existing restaurants. Perla, Tabachoy, and Tambayan are just a few of the well-known Filipino restaurants in Philadelphia, putting a spotlight on Filipino food right now. The chefs at each are leading the charge of elevating Filipino cuisine. If you’re eager to learn more, meet these three Filipino chefs in Philadelphia.
Chef Lou Boquila
Chef Lou Boquila of Perla in the East Passyunk neighborhood was one of the first in recent years to put a modern take on Filipino cuisine and draw national attention by offering a traditional Kamayan feast to the public. The Kamayan meal serves food on a table covered with banana leaves, where guests eat with their hands, using the leaves as a makeshift plate. The word “kamayan” means “with hands” in Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines. This unique dining experience has helped demystify Filipino cuisine in Philadelphia, often receiving rave reviews and frequently mentioned on the best Philadelphia restaurant lists.
Chef Kathy Mirano
Chef Kathy Mirano opened Tambayan, a Filipino food stall in the Reading Terminal Market, in 2021, welcoming locals and visitors to try authentic Filipino food based on recipes from her late father and grandmother. Tambayan means “a place to gather with friends and family and enjoy good food,” which it offers in spades. From the staple noodle dish Pancit to crispy Lumpia and Halo Halo dessert, Tambayan attracts Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike. The accessibility of having a spot in such a high-traffic area of Center City is vital in further shining a spotlight on the cuisine.
Chef Chance Anies
Chef Chance Anies is the “new kid on the block” who started Tabachoy as a passion project when he noticed Philadelphia had few Filipino food options. He grew up cooking alongside his dad, a personal chef in DC, and he was always interested in pursuing a career in the culinary field. He started hosting pop-up dinners to see if people might be interested in his food. In 2019, he quit his full-time job doing research at Temple Med School and bought a food cart. Last month, he celebrated opening his brick-and-mortar restaurant at 932 South 10th Street in South Philadelphia, offering another destination for those seeking Filipino food. He’s also the featured Chef in Residency at Volvér Restaurant inside the Kimmel Culture Center through early January. This collaboration has significantly raised the profile of Filipino food in the region.
LALO was another name that people knew in the Philly Filipino food world in the before times. It was open in The Bourse Food Hall in Old City, serving Filipino comfort food for a couple of years, but sadly, it closed right before the pandemic. The longanisa hot dog was so delicious!
It’s exciting to see Filipino food taking off in Philadelphia, a cuisine that had been previously underrepresented. These Filipino chefs are passionate about showing off their Filipino culture through food and thank goodness for that. If you have yet to try any of these Filipino restaurants in Philadelphia, please do, knowing you’re spot on the current trend. But don’t just go because it’s trendy; it’s truly a delicious cuisine that has finally seen its time to shine in Philly’s food scene.
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